Choosing Sides: College Football Edition

Building off of some of my reasoning in my NBA Finals post, I realized I needed a better system for deciding which teams to cheer for in college football. There are 128 college football teams in NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (known as FBS), and since each team only plays about 12 games a year, most teams do not play each other. Consequently, if you cheer for only one team, you end up only watching a small fraction of the available games, and you’ll never see most good teams play.  But since I like football and, as noted in the NBA Finals post, sports are much more fun when you have a narrative, I’ve decided to properly develop a system to dictate who I will cheer for in different games. This is especially useful with the upcoming conference championships today as well as the many bowl games later in the month.

The system is a pretty straightforward hierarchy, but since I don’t have strong enough feelings on all 128 FBS teams (or even most in the Power 5 conferences), I’ve divided the teams into 3 groups:

  • Group A is a ranked hierarchy of teams I will cheer for against all other teams, except those that are higher in Group A
  • Group Omega is a ranked hierarchy of all the teams I will always cheer against, except those that are higher in Group Omega.  You’ll notice it is larger than group A.
  • Group Meh is all the teams I don’t have strong feelings about. I will cheer against them when they play Group A, and for them when they play Group Omega. I won’t care when they play each other.

I suspect this is the way most people group their feelings about sports teams, including college football. But now I’ll go into detail about each of the teams.

Group A

  1. Duke – Where I went to school. Also we’ve been getting a lot better at football recently, which is quite exciting.
  2. Miami – I grew up a fan of the U, especially in the late 90s, early 2000s. In 2000, obviously UM should have been in the Championship instead of FSU, who they had beaten earlier that year (they steamrolled Florida in the Sugar Bowl instead). The BCS system was changed the next year so that a similar situation would never repeat itself (under the new rules, Miami would have qualified to play Oklahoma for the title game). In 2001, Miami went undefeated and obliterated Nebraska in the championship game. In 2002, Miami went undefeated again and beat Ohio State for a back-to-back title. Those Miami teams were some of the most talented to ever play college football with crazy stars: Ed Reed, Andre Johnson, Kellen Winslow, Sean Taylor, Johnathan Vilma, Jeremy Shockey, Clinton Portis, Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, and on. The 2001 team alone had 17 first round draft picks.
  3. Vanderbilt – My girlfriend’s alma mater. Also, as a generally anti-SEC person, Vanderbilt is sort of the anti-SEC, being the only private school in the conference and full of smart people.
  4. Stanford – Sticking with the “smart schools”, I’ve been a Stanford fan for a while, especially since seeing Andrew Luck demolish Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl (there were these really annoying Tech fans near us at the game). Plus, Andrew Luck is just a cool guy. As a bonus, the current Vanderbilt coach was a previous Stanford defensive coordinator (and their current basketball coach is former Duke player and coach Johnny Dawkins).
  5. Northwestern – Just rounding out the nerd schools, so I have one in every conference (couldn’t find any nerd schools in the Big 12).
  6. Navy – I’ve spent some time on Navy’s campus in Annapolis, and their uniforms are awesome. But to be honest, I’m not really devoted to this team, I just don’t have any reason to really dislike them (Duke was really bad at football in 2010, and so Navy was the first FBS team I saw Duke beat, so they just never seem threatening).

Group Omega

Licensed under CC-BY 4.0, for now (might public domain this on Flickr later). It's so beautiful.

Licensed under CC-BY 4.0, for now (might public domain this on Flickr later). It’s so beautiful.

  1. UNC – It’s not that I actually have anything against Carolina’s football team; it’s just that I know too many Carolina fans so any victory of theirs is made insufferable. If they lost every game it would not be enough.
  2. Ohio State – It was incredibly disappointing that the Buckeyes won a national championship last year, their first since 1970. We were doing so well! Even worse, their coach was Florida’s former coach Urban Meyer (I’ve known too many Florida fans). That’s not even a real name, what is this guy a Pope? To bring it full circle, several delusional fans got incredibly intoxicated in January 2002 and started spreading rumors that they had beaten Miami in the Fiesta Bowl.  Ohio State, not even once.
  3. Alabama – In 2003, the Miami Dolphins, my NFL team, went 10-6. Then in early 2004, our star running back, Ricky Williams, “retired” from football due to drug related reasons. That year we went 4-12 (still beat the Patriots though), and fired the coach. We got the second pick in the draft, we got a new coach named Nick Satan, Ricky Williams came back, and we ended up going 9-7 in a bounce back year. The next year, we had Wes Welker, Ronnie Brown, Chris Chambers, and still we only went 6-10. Coach Satan inexplicably passed over signing Drew Brees and instead traded for Daunte Culpepper to be our starting quarterback, as well as for Detroit QB Joey Harrington. Culpepper was benched for much of the season in favor of Harrington whose style of play can be loosely described as “atrocious”.  Drew Brees went on to be the 2009 Super Bowl MVP.   From this situation, Satan abandoned his contract in Miami and was hired at Alabama where he has stayed since.  In 2007, the Dolphins went 1-15.  Satan on the other hand, has won 3 National Championships and is currently paid roughly $4 million a year for being such a genius coach. But we know the truth. Daunte Culpepper? Seriously?
  4. Florida State – FSU has always been a UM rival (Wide Right I; Wide Right II; Wide Right III where, despite beating FSU, Miami was passed over for qualification for the national championship in favor of FSU; Wide Left which Miami won on the way to its undefeated, national championship winning 2002 season).  Plus, just being the vicinity of their fans is enough to turn anyone against them. Their being particularly good these last few years has also been a tad bit frustrating, but I have to admit it was nice seeing them beat an SEC team in 2013 for the national championship. The constant praise of the SEC probably deserves its own entry on this list.
  5. Virgina Tech – VT has had a historical rivalry with UM, Duke plays them every year, their mascot is a turkey, and I’ve met too many of their fans. What is there to like about this team? It was especially nice to watch them lose the 2011 Orange Bowl in person, as their fans were pretty annoying. Duke beating them in 4 OTs this year was also excellent.
  6. Kentucky – Honestly, this is mostly just because of basketball. Christian Laettner Trigger warning.  This could easily be tied with VT for 5th in the Omega group.
  7. Whoever won the SEC last year
  8. Maryland – Partially because of basketball, partially because they played Duke a lot, partially because they have such ugly uniforms. But they aren’t as high on this list as you might have thought since they cowardly ran away from the ACC to a bigger football conference when they couldn’t handle the basketball pressure.
  9. Tennessee – Ok, talk about ugly uniforms! What is this dullish brown-orange? Especially when Tennessee actually has one of the few state flags that is nicely designed! And, of course, Tennessee is part of the hated SEC, so that certainly wins it no points. But the real reason they made the list is due to the their rivalry with Vanderbilt, nerds vs jocks and all that.
  10. Cincinnati – I don’t feel too strongly about Cincinnati, but somehow I’ve ended up watching a ton of their games (they made it to the Orange Bowl a few times)  plus they beat Duke in our first Bowl Game since 1994. But the bottom line is that they are just boring to watch.

Group Meh

This contains the 100+ FBS teams that I don’t cheer for or against when they play each other. I will always cheer for them against Group Omega and against them when they play Group A. But there are some teams I should have a stronger feeling about that I feel compelled to list why they are in Group Meh

  • Florida – UF was actually the first college team I was a fan of. My first grade teacher was a fan, and I didn’t know much about college sports (plus their logo was an alligator!), but I quickly lost interest. Every now and then I’ll cheer for them, but I have mixed feelings. I know lots of people who are UF fans or went there for school, but that also means it’s fun to tease them when they lose. They were also really annoyingly good and had Urban Meyer as their coach (seriously, is he the Pope?).  Now that he’s gone, I’ve warmed to Florida somewhat.  I’ll be cheering for them against Alabama and Coach Satan today, but I’m still not ready to put them on the Group A list. Overall: meh.
  • Notre Dame – People have strong dislike towards Notre Dame, but I am technically Catholic.  More importantly, my granddad was a huge ND fan, and they are generally pretty good and always on TV. I did cheer for them against Alabama in the national championship a few years ago, but that ended badly for me. So I have to say for them I’m also not ready to put them in Group A.
  • Auburn – As an SEC team, the case can be made for me to put them in Group Omega. Somehow being Facebook friends with Auburn alums also makes their case worse; tons of Facebook statuses proclaiming “WAR DAMN EAGLE” just doesn’t win you any love, just questions. Why are you talking about eagles? Why do you think writing in all caps makes you sound louder on the internet?  But they have been kept off that list solely due to their rivalry with Alabama.  All enemies of Nick Satan are my friends…

And that’s it! Obviously today, you should join me in cheering for Stanford and Navy, and hoping UNC and Alabama get crushed. And then in the college football playoff, assuming Alabama wins today, I’ll be hoping for literally any team to win except them.  There’s an outside chance Stanford gets in today as well, which would give me an actual team to root for. But no matter what, I’m so excited that the playoff will not have 3 of my top 4 most hated teams like it did last year. I still have nightmares.

If you want a more generalized system to make your own Groups here is a recipe. You can tweak your exact order, but it should be something like this:

Group A:

  1. <Your alma mater>
  2. <The school you actually cheer for in football because yours isn’t that good, probably local>
  3. <Your relative’s or SO’s favorite school / alma mater>
  4. <nerd schools – Duke, Stanford, Northwestern- because their athletes are actually smart>
  5. <Army or Navy. You gotta pick one>

Group Omega

  1. <Your team’s rivals>
  2. <Your actual football school’s rivals>
  3. Alabama
  4. <Your team’s vague “other rivals” that you also hate for perceived slights>
  5. Kentucky, because why not
  6. <Any other SEC schools you dislike for any perceived slights>
  7. <some other school that has really ugly uniforms- suggestions include Tennessee, TCU, and Maryland>